Creative United join forces with leading access to music organisations

John Kelly, image courtesy of John Kelly

Creative United, OHMI, Drake Music and OpenUp Music have today announced a collaboration to come together for the first time to help tackle the crisis in music education, calling on the government to help at least 25,000 families over the next 4 years and to provide musical instruments for both disabled and non-disabled children and young people across the country.

The new collaboration was announced by the consortium alongside Andrew Miller, the Government’s Disability Champion for the Arts and Culture Sector, as part of Creative United’s celebration event at Bush Hall on March 12th to mark the 10th anniversary of Take it away.

Andrew Miller said: “I fully recognise the need to support young disabled talent at every step of their careers in music. The classical music sector has undoubtedly been slow in demonstrating support for disabled people wishing to enter the profession. I therefore welcome this collaborative initiative as a positive step forward to inclusion.”

The group aim to make musical instruments more widely available to aspiring young musicians across the UK, and particularly to disabled people for whom playing a conventional musical instrument may be difficult or impossible.

Average wages and disposable incomes have remained stagnant in recent years, meaning young people are being increasingly priced out of, or for disabled people – not included in, music education. Recent figures from the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ show that the average cost of private tuition is now £31ph across the UK, or £40ph in central London. Including the instrument itself, that means the cost of fully learning an instrument can be around £30-40,000.

The cost of inventing and building new instruments and accessible musical technology to take away disabling barriers can cost as little as a few hundred pounds, or upwards of £10,000, depending on what the musician wants and needs. For example, a flute adapted so it can be played with one hand can cost around £5,000, and a saxophone around £15,000.

With statutory music education now absent from the national curriculum beyond Key Stage 3, the opportunities for young people to discover and develop as musicians are increasingly scarce and government figures confirm this, showing that the number of teenagers participating in music in England is now at its lowest ever level.

Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive of Creative United said: “It’s never been harder for teenagers to become musicians and there’s never been fewer of them doing it; we need the government to work with us to act now to ensure that the opportunities for young people to develop their creative talents, including the opportunity to learn and enjoy music making, is open to all.”

Violinist Min Kym, the youngest ever foundation scholar at the Royal College of Music said: “Music and mastering the violin have been and continue to be integral parts of my life. They helped me bridge the gap between my native Korean culture and the culture of contemporary Britain that I was growing up in. I really hope both able bodied and disabled kids across Britain don’t lose access to such a life changing opportunity that learning an instrument can be. As a younger woman, I didn’t dream about meeting my perfect man; I dreamt that one day I would find my violin – I would find ‘the one.”

Carien Meijer, Chief Executive, Drake Music said: “We are proud to shout about the value and importance of access to music for everyone in our society. Music of all forms enriches our lives and culture. Disabled people need a broader variety of accessible instruments to open up new avenues of musical expression. Working together on initiatives like this and innovating with new technology will lead us to a future where everyone can make music, using instruments which haven’t even been imagined yet.”

Stephen Hetherington, founder of OHMI: “In music, progress towards full access for disabled people lags far behind just about every other area of life. Creative United’s initiative in bringing together government and key organisations is a most important step forward.”

Barry Farrimond, CEO, OpenUp Music said “It’s often said that music is the universal language, but unfortunately, a great many disabled people continue to be left out of the conversation. Music is strengthened by the diversity of those who make it and it is absolutely essential that anyone who wants to make music has the instruments and opportunities they need to enable them to progress.”

John Kelly's adapted instrument, image courtesy of John Kelly